Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing’s Bhurit Bhirombhakdi took his first overall Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup GT3 victory in round three as the series made an eventful European debut at Germany’s legendary Nürburgring. Local driver, LMS Engineering’s Stefan Wieninger, took an impressive maiden win in the series’ new category for the new Audi R8 LMS GT4 on his first ever race in the car. The Cup pits were integrated within the Audi Sport campus – a focal point of the entire paddock – as thousands flocked to the biggest Audi Sport customer racing weekend of the season.
In the GT3 Cup, ProMax Team’s Andrew Haryanto continued his unbroken podium run this season with a second place finish. Third across the line was Carsten Tilke, an impressive Cup debut in his Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Yasser Shahin of HCB-Rutronik Racing was unfortunate to finish seventh in the GT3 class after a puncture whilst running second forced him into the pits.
In the overall standings, Haryanto has extended his lead to sit atop the leaderboard on 59 points, with Yasser Shahin second (40 points) and Bhirombhakdi third (38 points).
In the GT4 category, Spaniard Carlos Checa of TKL Motorsport was second, an eye-catching result for the 2011 Superbike World Champion on his GT racing debut. Taking the final podium place was talented young German Jean-Luc Weidt.
“This has been a truly spectacular European debut for the Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup,” said Martin Kuehl, Director of Audi Sport customer racing Asia. “Being part of such a prestigious and important weekend for Audi motorsport, and racing on one of the world’s most iconic circuits, is a dream come true for the Cup and many of our drivers. Congratulations to our winners and podium finishers.”
Round three report
Starting from pole position, reigning Am Cup champion Bhirombhakdi got away well with Haryanto, carrying 40kg success ballast, in hot pursuit. The Thai went in deep as the field thundered into the first series of turns, but skilfully held the charging pack at bay. However, as they emerged from the melee, it was Team HCB-Rutronik Racing’s Yasser Shahin, carrying 30kg of success ballast after the Adelaide season-opener, in second having superbly charged through from the third row of the grid.
The fast and furious action saw several racing incidents in the opening laps. The first involved Absolute Racing’s Yang Xi and Racing Engineer’s Bernhard Henzel. Yang was later handed a five-place grid penalty for round four. Shortly afterwards, Car Collection’s Dirg Parhofer had a spin, recovering well to eventually cross the line in sixth. In their pursuit of the GT4 class podium, Hard Memory Hero Super Car’s Anderson Tanoto of Indonesia and CTVS Racers’ Naomi Zhang also had offs.
The fierce rivalry between Cup star Jeffrey Lee of Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan and Absolute Racing’s Sun Jingzu was reignited on the 4.638km Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit, the pair in a high-speed, no holds barred pitched battle for much of the race.
As Lee, locked on the tail of Sun, lined up to make a successful move to take fourth, Car Collection Motorsport’s Dimitri Parhofer up ahead ran heavily into the barriers, bringing out the safety car. Parhofer later rejoined his competitors at the Audi Campus after passing medical assessment.
On lap seven, disappointment struck for Shahin, a puncture putting pay to his podium bid after an eye-catching run. Having held second up until that point showing strong pace, he was classified seventh in the GT3 class at the end of the race.
As the clock ticked down, the race was brought to a close under the safety car, with the results called after 11 laps.
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup resumes on Sunday, with round four starting at 08:25 local time (UTC +2) prior to the start of the celebrated Nürburgring 24 Hours. Having taken maximum points in round three, Bhirombhakdi will have double reason to repeat his stunning performance; to earn more valuable championship points, and win the Cup’s Road to Spa prize, where the driver who takes the most points in each country the series visits wins an Audi seat in the 2019 Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The Audi Sport R8 LMS Cup is operated by Audi Sport customer racing Asia.
The series is supported by NINE Entertainment, Pirelli, Castrol Edge, sportauto and CTVS.
Quote after round three:
Bhurit Bhirombhakti (Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing) – round three GT3 winner
“Andrew [Haryanto] almost got me on the first lap. I thought that the tyres were hot, but it was not hot enough. The track is amazing. It is one I always wanted to come to, so I have fulfilled my dreams.”
Stefan Wieninger (LMS Engineering) – round three GT4 winner
“I was very lucky at the start and thank you to Carlos [Checa] for driving so fairly. I was a little bit lucky to overtake him on the right side, then he overtook me on the next corner. I was lucky again to overtake him and then I had empty track ahead of me.”
Round three results
1.59/Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI(THA)/GT3/Singha Plan-B by Absolute Racing/25:11.455
2.28/Andrew HARYANTO(INA)/GT3/ProMax Team/+0.627
3.42/Carsten TILKE(GER)/GT3/Montaplast by Land Motorsport/+2.404
4.7/Jeffrey LEE(TPE)/GT3/Team Audi Volkswagen Taiwan/+2.776
5. 13/SUN Jingzu(CHN)/GT3/Absolute Racing/+4.167
6. 66/Dirg PARHOFER(GER)/GT3/Car Collection Motorsport/+6.018
7. 11/Stefan WIENINGER(GER)/GT4/LMS Engineering/+7.709
8.74/Yasser SHAHIN(AUS)/GT3/Team HCB-Rutronik Racing/+8.587
9.71/Carlos CHECA(ESP)/GT4/TKL Motorsport/+9.777
10.148/Bernhard HENZEL(GER)/GT3/Racing Engineers/+11.539
11. 10/Berthold GRUHN(GER)/GT3/+14.081
13.99/ZHANG Ran(CHN)/GT4/CTVS Racers/+1 lap
DNF/1/Dimitri PARHOFER(GER)/GT3/Car Collection Motorsport
DNF/89/Anderson TANOTO(INA)/GT4/Hard Memory Hero Super Car Team
DNF/3/YANG Xi(CHN)/GT3/Absolute Racing
Fastest lap: Andrew Haryanto/ProMax Team/1:43.927/160.659kmh
GT3 = GT3 Driver (either Ultra or New R8)
GT4 = GT4 Driver
Cup = 2015 Cup Specification
Audi Sport R8 LMS GT3 Cup Overall Classification after round three
1. Andrew HARYANTO/59
2. Yasser SHAHIN/40
3. Bhurit BHIROMBHAKDI/38
4. Theo KOUNDOURIS/30
5. Tony BATES/26
6. Carsten TILKE/15
7. Mark WILLIAMSON/14
8. Jeffrey LEE/13
9. James KOUNDOURIS/12
10. Steve McLAUGHLAN/11
11. SUN Jingzu/10
12. Marc CINI/10
13. Daniel BILSKI/8
14. Dirg PARHOFER/8
15. YANG Xi/6
16. Bernhard HENZEL/4
17. Berthold GRUHN/2
Audi Sport R8 LMS GT4 Cup Overall Classification after round three
2. Carlos CHECA/19
3. Jean-Luc WEIDT/15
4. ZHANG Ran/12